Where Art Thou, Mr. Beardsley?

| Alisha Robberstad |

Artwork by Alisha Robberstad

Squirm screens at the Trylon from Sunday, October 3 to Tuesday, October 5. For tickets and more information, scroll to the bottom of this page.

I watched a lot of network television as a kid, including Fear Factor, where contestants were made to eat a variety of bugs and ballsacks. Besides being forced to ingest slimy invertebrates, players were made to lie in coffin baths of nightcrawlers, snakes, or cockroaches. Even with this viewing history, I was not totally desensitized to the worms in Squirm. My first time watching it was in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I rewatched that episode for this review trying to ignore the commentary from the Gizmonics employee and his bots of spare parts, when I noticed the movie’s charming flaws. That particular episode also includes a pretty funny riff track of an informational video titled “A Case of Spring Fever” in which a man temporarily lives in a Twilight Zone world without springs with a cartoon mascot named Coily. As a fan of MST3K, I highly recommend this episode and pretty much all the others. 

Deeper meanings to films tend to go far over my head in most cases, so it isn’t exactly clear if there is an environmental lesson here or if it’s just a creature feature,something akin to Night of the Leapus but without all the miniatures. Do the worms revolt from years of abuse by humans—years of being skewered on tackle and used as bait? Or are they just kinda gross, so it makes for an entertaining premise? I’ve been baiting my own hooks since I was a young kid and worms never bothered me as badly as leeches. Those blood sucking bastards can rot on a hot tin roof. Apparently so many worms were required for the filming of this movie that New England’s supply of bloodworms was nearly wiped out. 

The movie opens with scrolling text setting the time and place of Fly Creek, Georgia, 1975. An extreme thunderstorm downs some power lines which electrically charge the soil and the worms that live down below. In the days after the wild storm, southern belle Geri eagerly awaits the arrival of her New York City slickin’ boyfriend Mick. Geri’s widowed mother and younger sister Alma are hesitant about Mick’s arrival, her mother had been hoping that she would’ve settled with Roger instead. Roger is the Lawnmower Man-like simple country boy who has unrequited feelings for Geri and who begrudgingly works for his father’s worm farm next door. This love triangle between Geri, Roger, and Mick is very weak and doesn’t do much to help establish any character motivations other than Roger’s. In fact, the characters in this movie are lacking personality in general, with the exception of Alma and her giant glam rock platform shoes and patched pants. The worms are the true stars. 

Mick arrives in Fly Creek by bus with his luggage, tennis racket, and fishing pole, reunited in the middle of the woods with Geri. They ride into town together in Roger’s borrowed Willie’s Worm Farm truck to buy some ice for the fridge since the electricity is still out. Mick orders an egg cream at a cafe and… Egad! A fat screaming worm falls from the spoiled spilled soda. The sheriff is there and refuses to believe Mick when he defends himself by saying he wasn’t playing a prank. In typical small town fashion, the cop lets it be known that outsiders aren’t so welcomed ‘round there and accuses him of straight up tomfoolery. 

Finishing their errands, the couple move on to check in on Mr. Beardsley, a beautiful old man who lives nearby. Calling for him outloud proves to be futile until they find skeletal remains in some dirt in the backyard. The remainder of the film is dedicated to discovering who the skeleton is, Rogers’ increasingly strange behavior, and battling the skepticism of the asshole sheriff. Downed power lines drag back and forth in the dirt, presumably growing the army of sentient flesh-hungry worms into numbers large enough to release an onslaught of mucusy aggression onto the people of Fly Creek. 

So put a pot of boiling water on the stove and ready your spaghetti noodles because you’ll be craving them by the finish. While it could have had more gory-worm action instead of dentistry records searching, the climax will still impress with an avalanche of love worms. This movie entertains a little more with the help of Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo, but is still enjoyable nonetheless.

Edited by Brad Stiffler

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